One week ago, my husband and I lost our beloved 15 year old parrot. He had been ill for about a month, but we were hoping so much that he was on the mend. But the two days before his passing he took a sudden turn for the worse, and it became obvious that he might not survive for much longer. Before he was up for another ride to the avian vet, he had another seizure (he had had two in the past month) and he was gone. My husband and I were devastated. We are both still in the midst of the grieving process, and feel a deep deep loss.
My parrot, Lima, was not just a beloved pet to me, but was for me, an unofficial emotional support animal. I remember when we first adopted him, I was in an emotional turmoil. Severely over stressed at work and becoming symptomatic with bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness. I remember taking extra long lunches in order to drive 30 minutes to the pet shop to visit him, when he was still too young of a chick to go home with me. After we brought him home, he was the bright spot in my evenings and his presence was calming. Unfortunately, though, I became more and more ill over time and ended up hospitalized. That was the beginning of a period of almost 12 years of me being home unable to work. Luckily not alone, because I had him.
I know how loving and caring pets of all sorts can be, but parrots are no exception. My parrot could read my moods and would act accordingly. He comforted me when I was sad, played with me when I needed to be stimulated, kissed me…just because. When he saw me crying I could see the concern in his eyes. Truly! And I really needed that “someone” to be there with me when my husband couldn’t. I think pets can be emotional supporters to whole families, but to me (a childless woman with a mental illness), he was a son, a brother, an adjunct medication, an additional therapist, and a sweetheart in one.
I have no doubt that my loving pet kept me on this earth when otherwise I might have given up. I also give him credit for keeping me out of the hospital for the last 7 years, when I might otherwise have relapsed too far.
It was rare that I looked over at my loving parrot and didn’t find him watching me. There were also so many times when I was wasting away in bed that he called out to me to get him. And if I didn’t come right away, he persisted in his calling. And persisted. And persisted. Then I finally dragged my butt out from beneath the covers and retrieved him, to be met again with kisses. Every day he spent hours on my shoulder, often cheek to cheek. The feel of his warmth and soft feathers, even the smell of him was so comforting.
The idea of a service animal, such as for the blind or disabled, is so touching. The relationships they have. The extreme service that the animal provides. What heroes! But emotional support animals, both official and unofficial, can be just as significant for many. Having had an an unofficial emotional support animal I have developed an even greater love and respect for animals. That symbiotic relationship teaches you about their intelligence and capacity to love across species. Often I talked about that love with my psychiatrist. Initially he just labeled it “attachment”, but I am not just a romantic, I know what my pet and I felt for each other. It was pure love. Honestly, other than my husband and my immediate family, I have never felt so loved as I did when my sweet Lima was with me. Pet owners, you know that unconditional love, don’t you?
My husband and I gave my pet Lima a proper funeral. He now lies in my father’s woods next to a huge boulder. We buried him with his favorite toys, and a photograph of my husband and me. During the burial we also planted a blooming azalea. My father promised to maintain it. Hubby and I also bought two packets of Forget-Me-Not seeds, which we plan to plant on his grave. We are also currently creating a memory book in his honor. These are just some of the things we’ve done to help us in the grieving process. I urge anyone who loses their beloved pet to take the extra step(s) to honor their pet. It could be playing a special song, or just bringing up funny or sweet recollections.
Do you have an official or “unofficial” emotional support animal?